Pre-departure and path to Mexico
Todo pasa y todo queda/All passes and all remains
pero lo nuestro es pasar,/but it is for us to pass,
pasar haciendo caminos,/pass leaving paths,
Caminos sobre la mar./paths over the sea.
Caminante no hay camino,/Traveller there is no path,
se hace camino al andar. /the path is made by walking.
The simple yet profoundly powerful words of Joan Manuel Serrat have circled in my head the past few days after hearing them for the 100th time (at least) although this time from the spoken words of an incredibly talented musician at La Nueva Babel during Poetry Tuesdays where we are now regulars here in Oaxaca. It is not only fitting given what we are doing – the path we are leaving behind – but strikes a very deep chord in the sense that we are doing just that: leaving behind a path and not following one.
At the beginning of this trip this wasn’t very clear to me and I suspect to any of us. A bit over one month later much has changed; much more has happened; even more has been lived, felt, explored, and experienced. We’ll get to that eventually – one way or another – although for now, in company of the four candles at my side on a barren wooden table with a laptop that screams “out of place!”, it would seem fitting that I start at the beginning. To do so I should really take you back – way back – to how this all started. We may get to that as well one day, but for now, let’s just go to the weekend right before our departure and work our way from there…
After fortunately a heck of a lot less good-byes than I was afraid to have to say on my last day at work, I headed South to see my family for the last time in a good while. As it happens, we were invited to a somewhat long-lost friend’s wedding in Key West (as if I had planned it, I ended up starting my adventure at the Southernmost tip of the US that provided the perfect opportunity to share with my family before the adventure that would separate me from them. The weekend had in store for me a few surprises – one in particular – that I was not anticipating, which turned things around and shook them for better or worse (likely the former) and which I’ll surely write more about eventually. In the blink of an eye, as is usually the case, it was over. It was 4:30 AM on Monday, February 2nd when I finally made it back to Daytona – just a couple of hours before we were scheduled to depart.
Needless to say, it wasn’t until a few hours after that we finally departed along with undoubtedly one of the most special friends we were lucky to have met (Juan Quiros) under a cloudy and soon to be rainy sky (Uyi came to the rescue a few hours later assuring us in a good-bye text message that in his country, Nigeria, leaving on a rainy day is a sign of good luck). [C:\Documents and Settings\eagle\My Documents\My Pictures\Viajes y Paseos\Latinoamerica 2009\Prep & Departure\IMG_9747.JPG] Behind we left more than any of us could at that point imagine – and I am most definitely NOT referring to anything material – and before we knew it we reached the highway, the city limit, the state limit, and soon enough we were arriving at our first stop: New Orleans.
The Big Easy greeted us dark, windy, cold, and quiet. That is, until we finally made our way to Bourbon Street where the soul of this interestingly decadent city comes to life at night with its tones of red, green, and blue and hustlers trying to get you in their door as if their life depended on it. We walked up and down in search of food (and drink) and soon enough we found both. The drink came within one of the loneliest bars on the street (yes, a hustler convinced us to go inside) but after hearing the blues performance Rooster and his gang put on for us and the 5 or so tables that made up the audience, we were certain (in our heads at least) it was probably the only place that night that could have given us the authentic experience we sought. [C:\Documents and Settings\eagle\My Documents\My Pictures\Viajes y Paseos\Latinoamerica 2009\Prep & Departure\MVI_9759.AVI].
Happy to have at least gotten a glimpse of this certainly amazing city’s night scene, we trudged back home a bit tired but anxious to rest enough to take on what would surely be a very long day. The US-Mexican border was, after all, waiting for us several hundred miles away.
The next morning I woke up earlier to move the car from the otherwise private parking lot that the guard let us stay in for free after seeing my “Colombia Te Quiero” bag – he was, of course, Colombian and trust me, that was not the first or last time the bag has come in handy. Soon the sun came up, all awoke with it, and we headed to take a stroll through the French Quarter before starting the long drive ahead of us.
McAllen and Crossing the Border
When Uyi said that departing on a rainy day was good luck, we was 100% right if by good luck he meant we would get sunny skies soon after. Actually since then we have had nothing but blue skies to this day! In any case, the drive was uneventful for the most part; lots of mate, music, talking (debating), and reading. Our arrival to McAllen was bittersweet for me, however. My first contact with life in the US was in that city back when I was almost 7. The city that saw me change drastically changed itself perhaps even more so, and all I had to appreciate it were a few highways I didn’t recognize as we carefully made our way to my uncles’ Lili’s and Diego’s house. Several hours later than our original estimated arrival time, they were still waiting for us with our first introduction to Mexican cuisine – and what an incredibly delicious dinner (chocolate-and-God-knows-what-else-based Mole with chicken) it was!
Unfortunately the night was well upon us, the day had been tiring (particularly for Juan that drove most of the way), and the beds looked all too inviting so after putting some clothes to wash, checking the road to be followed in Mexico in the morning online, and making a quick post on the website, I was the last to turn in for the day – a good 5 hours before we were planning on leaving once again.
Sooner than any of us would have liked, dusk became dawn and after a quick breakfast and quicker good-byes to Lili and Diego who treated us like royalty during our short stay, we made our way to Chuleta (our car, by the way) and amidst the foggy morning we headed towards the border almost nervously. It was, after all, a point of no return. However, no sooner did we arrive did we realize just how ridiculously easy it is to cross South. The other way around, as we all know, is a completely different story. In any case, the drive over the Rio Grande took literally 20 seconds and soon we were doing the import papers for Chuleta and ourselves, after which we were free to roam in Mexico.
With little time to waste (our friends from Daytona beach were due to start arriving in Mexico City on Thursday – the day after) we drove straight through the mountains towards our first stop: San Miguel de Allende.
San Miguel de Allende – Mexico
We arrived a bit late to San Miguel, but early enough to find a good hostel, some of the best “Gringas” (soft flower tortilla tacos) we have had up to now, walk around the town at night, and end up at a karaoke bar. Yes, our introduction to Mexican nightlife was through the all not-mexican Karaoke that actually, come to think of it, I hadn’t done in YEARS. Of all places. It was, admittedly, a great time (if not culturally enriching), however, and I actually sang two songs of which one was a duet with Pablo (who sucks at singing Karaoke by the way…heh heh).
The next morning we toured the town and photographed away. San Miguel de Allende is a truly beautiful city where we soon found out a heck of a lot of foreigners have gone to live permanently. Unfortunately we had to make it to Mexico City that evening and so the time was very short giving us just a few short hours before we were once again on Chuleta making our way to our final destination for the day marking the end of this first chapter in our journey. With a group of 20+ friends soon to group up in one of the World’s biggest cities, the next few days would without a doubt be unforgettable. Preview: they were.